Bookfever.com – Two People & 60,000 Books. Still gold in those hills.
And then there is the dealer lifestyle that is not so much a business as a love affair/addiction.
I’m talking about Chris Volk and Shep Iiams at Book Fever in Ione, Ca. They are full time on-line booksellers who also do a variety of shows, and trek to various meetings to get things signed, with lots of stops to buy books along the way.
I met them on the bib list, got to know them better when they visited Maui. A bit later I volunteered help with their exhibit at a large San Francisco book fair. Recently I’ve visited them several times on the Mainland and enjoyed pending a few days with their version of bookseller’s life.
Let’s just say it’s very (very) strong on buy side. They are just two people looking after an inventory of 60,000 books in stock (of which more than 20,000 are on-line) and more arriving all the time. It’s a more than a full time occupation for two people.
What’s fun about their version of the book biz is the stock is delicious. There’s always more than enough of everything, and a lot of it signed. The chances are also very good that if once you pick up a book, and momentarily put it down, you will never find it again.
They specialize in modern firsts, women’s studies, Afro-American authors, signed copies, series books for children and science fiction, to name a few. They are both people with wide ranging taste and knowledge.
Chris absolutely refused to supply AE Monthly with a photo of her at her desk. Instead AE shows you a picture of an elegant Bookfever.com display at a recent show where every dust jacket is turned face out and everything is in beautiful condition.
But when I visited them recently and glanced from one room to the next I could just barely see the top of her head. She was entirely surrounded by “what I’m cataloging….”
I grew up in a world of piles: piles on the stairs, by my mother’s desk, in the packing room, piles to be sorted and shelved. But those piles of yore are thin pale shadows compared to these major serious piles at Bookfever.
These are books boxed and stacked deep with more books on top. These are the kind of piles where you will never see the bottom box, not while you live.
And they take it with them when they travel.
For example, when I helped out at the book fair in San Francisco, I met them at the show and we all rode back to their ten acre spread near Sacramento in a cross between an RV and a van. They sat in the front and I sat in the back packed in with the inventory.
It felt exactly like a moving coffin. If any of those boxes shifted even an inch or the whole overloaded contraption flipped or rolled, which to a native Detroiter seemed like a high probability scenario, I was a dead woman.
But no, we made it without incident, stopped for sushi, and got up in the morning to see the sun rise over the book ranch.
They have a rural set up: it’s about 10 acres, off the main road, in the California gold rush country (Sutter’s Creek is just down the road).
It’s all rolling and golden, and it also has lots of upkeep. The scenery is sweeping and the mountains are not far away. The whole area is called Amador County, which is also well known for its wine.
Within a short drive of their place the vineyards are plentiful. After a hard day book ranching we drove around and sampled grapes of different vintages produced by small wineries, a lot of it was good. All of it was pleasant.
Both of them are good cooks. This attribute is very gratifying, particularly if you are their guest. It isn’t just Ian Kahn who knows the benefits of good food with good friends and good talk.
Of all of those AE spoke with Chris had perhaps the best advice.
“You don’t go into bookselling for the money, and if you do you will be disappointed. You go into it because it is a life where you are always learning, everyday is new.”